Warren: Hockey world starts to check out

Bull Durham is a great movie, don’t get me wrong. It’s full of hilarious scenes, choice lines — we don’t get enough Nuke Laloosh-ish type quotes in real-life dressing rooms — and it’s one of the few Kevin Costner films that wasn’t universally panned.

Warren: Hockey world starts to check out
Ottawa Senators Milan Michalek (right) chats with Claude Giroux during practice at the Bell Sensplex during the NHL lockout. (Chris Mikula/Ottawa Citizen)

Bull Durham is a great movie, don’t get me wrong. It’s full of hilarious scenes, choice lines — we don’t get enough Nuke Laloosh-ish type quotes in real-life dressing rooms — and it’s one of the few Kevin Costner films that wasn’t universally panned.

Still, when TSN chose to show the film in prime time Tuesday, it only made the NHL lockout hit home that much harder.

Here we are, into October, only eight days shy of what was supposed to be the start of the NHL regular season, and we’re not being overwhelmed with hockey talk?

By this point, fans should know all about the early surprises at training camps, at least among the seven Canadian teams. Poolies should be poring over team rosters, looking for the sleepers for their fantasy drafts. Team executives should be smiling widely from the seats during practices, scrimmages and pre-season games, satisfied with the development of young players. It’s all the anticipation that builds enthusiasm for the start of a new season.

Instead, well, we have a funny baseball movie on the national airwaves in hockey country. Don’t blame the network. Blame the NHL and the players for putting them in this pickle. While CBC’s plans for Saturday nights are still a secret, something has to replace Hockey Night in Canada.

Meanwhile, down in New York on Tuesday, there was more pessimism from Bill Daly, commissioner Gary Bettman’s right hand man, following days of meetings between the NHL and the players’ association. Daly, as per a tweet from TSN’s Darren Dreger on Tuesday, said, “We don’t like where we are and we feel badly for our fans who are the innocent victims of this process.”

In short, nothing new.

The hockey news, if there is any, is all about where and when star NHL players are signing in Europe. It’s a sign that even those players who were staying here through September, optimistic that a resolution could be reached, have given up hope that there will be a full season, if any at all.

Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara, the ex-Ottawa Senator, on Tuesday signed with Prague in the Kontinental Hockey League.

After skating Tuesday at the Bell Sensplex with fellow locked out players, Claude Giroux, the Orléans-bred star of the Philadelphia Flyers, said he could be in Europe within a few days. Giroux is believed to be choosing between Kladno of the Czech League or Omsk of the KHL.

The way Giroux sees it, playing in a competitive league is a better way to spend the lockout than skating around in circles with players here, waiting for movement in the CBA discussions.

“It’s fun to come here and play with different kind of guys, but at the end of the day, you want to play real hockey with real intensity and right now I’m looking at options,” Giroux said.

“Right now guys over there are in game shape, they’re playing a lot of games. When the NHL does come back, if it does, they’ll be ready to go, they will be in good shape. So, I think it’s important, that if you want to be ready when the season comes back, I’ve got to be in game shape. The only way I can do that is to go play somewhere.”

Giroux, following in the footsteps of Wayne Gretzky on Monday, is optimistic that a deal will get done to salvage a portion of the season.

“I do believe we’re going to play this year, to be honest,” he said. “For the fans, mostly. The game is doing so well that we can’t go into a lockout for the whole year. That wouldn’t be very smart. It feels like (for) the owners, it doesn’t really matter for them, if we go a full year of lockout.

“It looks like they don’t really care what the fans think and you know, at the end of the day, it’s about the fans and that’s what’s so good about hockey. For me, as a kid growing up, I remember when they had the lockout (in 2004) and I was playing juniors. It basically just sucked. Everybody looks forward to the new season and it’s such a good game. The LA Kings go and win the Stanley Cup and you would think that everybody in California would start watching a little bit more … it doesn’t look good for hockey.”

If Giroux does go to the KHL, hockey fans will be able to watch him should they somehow find a link to ESPN 3, which, I suppose, is a step up from ESPN 8, home of the fictional championships in the movie Dodgeball.

Speaking of which, what sports movie will next take the place of live hockey in prime time?

kwarren@ottawacitizen.com

Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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